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Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts by Bob Dylan

Album: Blood On The TracksReleased: 1975
  • This song, which comes in at just under nine minutes, is well known for its rather befuddling plot. While Bob Dylan fans, nor Songfacts, are yet to come to a fixed decision on its one true meaning, this is what we have managed to decipher: The song is occupied by multiple archaic characters, including the enigmatic bank robber, "Jack of Hearts." This charming rogue seduces two women, "Lily" and "Rosemary," both of whom are romantically linked to "Big Jim," the wealthiest, greediest man in town. Big Jim is ultimately murdered by Rosemary, who is subsequently hung for her crime. Meanwhile, Jack of Hearts escapes into the night having accomplished his robbery, leaving Lily alone to ponder the events that have taken place.

    Dylan is yet to comment on the plot, so debate continues to rage about the true meaning behind the song. Some fans have suggested Jack of Hearts is an embodiment of our closet criminal desires. Others argue Lily, Rosemary and Jack of Hearts are three facets of one individual and that the song therefore represents the struggle we have with social identity. Some claim gambling metaphors are used to represent abstract ideas of coincidence and fate. Others think the song is criticizing justice systems. Then there are a select few fans who think it's just a simple song about a simple bank robbery!
  • The song's vivid plot inspired two screen plays - one that was commissioned by Dylan and written by John Kaye, and a second written by James Byron. Neither were made into a film.
  • Dylan called up folk singer, Joan Baez, about this track. Baez told The Huffington Post: "He read me the entire lyrics to 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts' that he'd just finished from a phone booth in the Midwest." The phone call prompted Baez to write "Diamonds & Rust," which is about the relationship she had with Dylan in the '60s. Baez said she later lied to Dylan that "Diamonds and Rust" was about her husband, David Harris.
  • Blood on the Tracks is Bob Dylan's 15th album and widely considered to be one of his greatest works. The album peaked at #1 on the US charts. At the time of its release, Dylan was separating from his then-wife, Sara Dylan. This personal turmoil is said to been the inspiration behind many of the album's songs. Dylan would later deny this, instead claiming the album took inspiration from Anton Chekhov's short stories. In 2003, Blood on the Tracks was ranked at #16 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
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Comments: 9

It's one of the greatest "story" songs ever! It shows that Dylan is not just a songwriterKen - Levittown, Ny
I think this song is related to Dylan's movie Renaldo and Clara. Lily is Sara, Rosemary is Joan Baez, Big Jim or Jack of Hearts represents Dylan himself. According to Mel Howard, Sara and Joan are opposing forces, in different mythological guises, Joan as a certain kind of energy, Sara as a different kind of energy, and Dylan in between, being attracted to both.Cynthia - Shanghai, China
In a way, Dylan reprised the Jack of Hearts character years later in the form of the Monkey Man in Tweeter and the Monkey Man with the Traveling Wilburys.Steve - Philadelphia, Pa
I first saw the "blood on the tracks" album at a friends house I had to run out and buy it.
I still have it
Niles - Belpre, Oh
What a great story! I feel like I'm attending a full-length Technicolor western movie when I listen to this! I remember when Blood on the Tracks was released--it was such a fine (spectacular!) album from Dylan after a real dry spell. This song is definitely one of the highlights.Guy - Woodinville, Wa
Joan Baez cover is really good,that was the first time I heard the song,back in the folk music daysBilly J - San Antonio, Tx
this is like a short novel, compressed. For every character he describes, he leavs clues for their history and goals and failures. This is Dylan as a great storyteller !Peter - Stockholm, Sweden
one of my FAVOURITE songs!
did u know it is the longest song of bob dylans!!! ( song with the most words!)
Josh - London, England
To me, the Jack of Hearts represents something in people that allows them to step above their normal social confinements. This lets the characters do things they normally wouldn't do, ie. kill Big Jim, rob the bank safe. And no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts... acting is stepping outside of who you actually are. And when the Jack of Hearts is missing, everyone and everything is as it normally would be, the Hanging Judge being sober and all, and Lily can't do anything, the Jack of Hearts can no longer help her.Greg - Paris, Mi